Preparing for grad school in Canada involves both academic and personal factors:
International students applying to grad school in Canada should begin their academic preparation early, since admission is very competitive.
Academic preparation first means researching the choices available at grad schools in Canada. Grad schools in Canada have a wide variety of degree program and department specialization options, and you should leave yourself plenty of time to search out what's available in your field of study and who the field's expert professors and researchers in Canada are.
Academic preparation for grad school also means ensuring you have the required courses and grades to be accepted into the program you want; most grad schools in Canada require a minimum grade point average (GPA) for admission, and this will likely vary by program.
Grad schools in Canada require international students to demonstrate proficiency in the language of instruction (English or French). The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is commonly accepted, but Canadian institutions may have their own tests or accept other English tests, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), or the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) Assessment. Confirm language requirement details with the grad program you are applying to.
Grad school calendars, student handbooks or admissions offices are the best sources of academic preparation information, including recognition of your home country academic credentials. Most universities in Canada make their calendars and student handbooks available online. Be sure to also read up on specific application requirements (reports and transcripts, language tests, letters of recommendation, personal essays, portfolio, etc). Preparing for grad school in Canada also means getting your paperwork completed and organized (read more in our How to Apply and Student Visas sections).
In addition to academic preparation, there's a lot you can do in your home country to prepare personally for grad school in Canada.
Familiarize yourself with the language of instruction, whether English or French: read English- or French-language books, magazines or newspapers (either print or online); watch English or French TV or films; practice your conversation with any English- or French-speaking friends you may know. To improve the vocabulary and comprehension skills for your specialized grad school program, do some reading in the area you hope to study.
Grad school admissions committees are often interested in an international student's personal qualities. One way to show personal qualities such as teamwork and leadership is through extracurricular activities; consider joining or even starting clubs at your university or in your community, whether related to your area of interest or not. Being able to show success within and outside the classroom will help your application.
Prove your work ethic. Grad school study in Canada is rigorous; therefore, work experience -- paid or volunteer -- related to your chosen field is extremely beneficial.
Develop your professional and academic relationships. Grad schools in Canada involve lots of close, personal work with professors, supervisors and other grad students. Investing the time now to develop solid relationships with your current professors (or other professionals in your field of study) means they will be able to write you positive reference letters for your grad school application.
Contact other international students already studying at the school. Most universities in Canada have international student offices and/ or student societies that can put you in touch with current or former international students who can share their experience and advice on preparing for grad school in Canada.
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